Liddle v. Clark, No. 49A04-1707-MI-1662, __ N.E.3d __ (Ind. Ct. App., July 23, 2018).

Shepard, S.J.

Melodie Liddle’s dog, Copper, died in a concealed animal trap in Versailles State Park. Liddle sued several state officials seeking damages. She also asked the trial court to declare invalid state-issued emergency rules governing trapping in state parks.

The court awarded damages to Liddle for the loss of Copper, but she appeals the court’s rulings on summary judgment limiting the calculation of damages and denying her request for declaratory judgment. [Footnote omitted.]


Liddle argues the trial court erred in limiting her damages to Copper’s fair market value, claiming sentimental value should have been included in the calculation.


By contrast, Indiana has long held that animals are personal property, and the fair market value of the animal at the time of loss is the appropriate basis for calculating damages. See Toledo & Wabash Ry. Co. v. Smith, 25 Ind. 288 (1865) (market value of horse at time of death was the measure of damages); Jacquay v. Hartzell, 1 Ind. App. 500, 27 N.E. 1105, 1105 (1891) (“One who willfully and maliciously kills a dog which is not vicious or dangerous in its disposition and habits, and is not engaged in committing damages, is liable to the owner for the fair value of the animal.”); Moorman Mfg. Co. v. Barker, 110 Ind. App. 648, 40 N.E.2d 348 (1942) (measure of damages was fair market value of sows before and after harm occurred); Ridenour, 546 N.E.2d 322 (assessing value of erroneously caught sport fish); Star Bank, N.A. v. Laker, 637 N.E.2d 805 (Ind. 1994) (fair market value of a horse was the proper measure of damages); Harlan Sprague Dawley, Inc. v. S.E. Lab Group, Inc., 644 N.E.2d 615 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994) (lab entitled to full market value of lab rats destroyed by defective equipment), trans. denied.

We are constrained to follow precedent and to conclude the trial court did not err in limiting Liddle’s damages to Copper’s fair market value. Further, even if we were deciding from a clean slate whether sentimental damages should be recoverable for the death of a pet due to negligence, it would be difficult to determine where to draw the line. Would all types of pets be included? Which individuals would be entitled to recover such damages for the loss of a pet? As the Wisconsin Supreme Court said in denying recovery for emotional distress arising from the killing of a pet, “allowance of recovery would enter a field that has no sensible or just stopping point.” Rabideau v. City of Racine, 243 Wis. 2d 486, 500, 627 N.W.2d 795, 802 (2001).

Liddle cites to the Court’s decision in Campins v. Capels, 461 N.E.2d 712 (Ind. Ct. App. 1984). It was a case with very different facts. A burglar took several items of gold jewelry from Capels’ home and sold them to a gold dealer, Campins, who melted them down. Capels sued Campins, claiming he knew or should have known the jewelry was stolen. The trial court determined Campins was liable for the destruction of one wedding ring and three award rings Capels received for his work in the auto racing industry.

On appeal, Campins challenged the trial court’s valuation of the award rings at $1,000 each, claiming those valuations were well above their fair market value. A panel of this Court determined the award rings were not “ordinary jewelry” but rather “coveted awards and symbols of certain achievements accomplished by very few.” Id. at 720. As a result, the Court concluded the rings “should be valued differently than other jewelry.” Id. Thus, “sentimental value” could be considered for items such as heirlooms, family papers and photographs, handicrafts, and trophies. Id. at 721.

We conclude the holding in Campins does not control here because the Court intended for its decision to apply to inanimate items whose special origin would likely add actual value. Where pets are concerned, we follow Indiana’s longstanding precedent limiting recovery to the pet’s fair market value.


For the reasons stated above, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Vaidik, C.J., and Brown, J., concur.

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